Borough in pole position

NOBODY at Ipswich Borough Council's Grafton House headquarters should be counting their chickens right now - but I can't help feeling that councillors and officers on that side of Russell Road must be feeling pretty chipper about their chances of winning the battle for independence from the county.

NOBODY at Ipswich Borough Council's Grafton House headquarters should be counting their chickens right now - but I can't help feeling that councillors and officers on that side of Russell Road must be feeling pretty chipper about their chances of winning the battle for independence from the county.

I must confess I was a sceptic. When the idea of another attempt at gaining unitary status really started last year, I didn't think Ipswich stood a chance.

The fact the town is constrained by ancient boundaries I thought would count against it - and is it so bad being part of the county structure?

Events over the last six months, and a frankly blinding campaign by borough leaders, means that the idea of a unitary Ipswich is no longer a pipe dream. If I was a betting man, I'd certainly put a tenner on the borough winning the ultimate prize.

I was surprised to see the comments from county council leader Jeremy Pembroke which he sent to us yesterday claiming that a unitary Ipswich would be bad news for the town's residents.

All pretence that this is a gentlemanly fight has now been thrust aside - there now appears to be all-out war with Russell Road Ipswich's answer to the Korean De-Militarized Zone!

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Mr Pembroke should also ask himself why, if a unitary Ipswich is such a bad idea, it is supported by every county councillor from the town - including Russell Harsant, the town's only Tory county councillor.

The bid has also been attracting more support recently - I was speaking to Liberal Democrat Andrew Cann the other day who had been undecided for many months but is now convinced that it is in the best interests of the town.

And the more I look at the rival pathfinder proposal, the more convinced I am that this is effectively a unitary bid by the county - it is an attempt by Endeavour House chiefs to take over every other district in Suffolk.

They may couch it in terms of “partnership” and “co-operation.” Offices may be retained in Woodbridge, Needham Market, Hadleigh and elsewhere.

But effectively all the decision-making for the county will be taken in Endeavour House by the cabinet there.

A unitary county has its merits. It is a good idea for the rural areas and market towns. But why can't the county be completely open about its intentions? Why does it have to wrap up everything in terms like pathfinder which few of us understand.

And does it really need or want to involve the urban centre of Ipswich in its affairs?

I've pointed out before that none of the cabinet come from the town. The only cabinet member representing a town of any size is Graham Newman from Felixstowe - and the fact is that whenever the county has found itself involved in Ipswich affairs recently controversy has followed.

The row over a new fire station for Ipswich was just a symptom of the bitterness that has built up between the authorities - but still the county insists it doesn't want to let Ipswich go.

Isn't it best for all concerned to have an amicable divorce rather than living in a loveless marriage?

MY piece about road charging last week certainly got some readers going - but it really showed up the misinformation and doublespeak being employed by some elements of the pro-driving lorry.

One reader who clearly takes exception to the fact I admit to driving a family diesel, wrote an intemperate rant that was so misinformed that it was almost laughable. He reckoned it would cost him £1.30 a mile to drive to Bury St Edmunds at 6.30am.

Clearly he hasn't understood the idea of road charging - that drivers are charged more when the roads are busier - and hasn't understood that while you might be charged £1.30 a mile to drive round Piccadilly Circus in the rush hour, you would probably only have to pay 1p or 2p a mile to use the A14 at off-peak times. If his car tax is reduced, congestion charging may even save him money.

I then had another letter complaining that road charging would penalise motorists who have to drive into town at rush hours.

That's the point. You pay more to drive at more popular times. Rail commuters accept that, motorists should as well. And if it persuades some shoppers to delay their trips from 9am to 10am then the roads will be less congested.

Lastly, one writer described speeding cameras as 'a taxation device'. Wrong.

The only reason people sometimes have to pay after driving past a speed camera is because they've been speeding. They've broken the law. They've been involved in a criminal activity.

If you don't want to pay for driving through a speed camera the solution is simple. Be a good citizen and don't break the law - and if you can't live within the law then don't expect the rest of us to have much sympathy if you have to pay the price!

AS a journalist one of the cardinal rules is that you don't reveal your sources, when you are given a good story that someone else doesn't want you to know.

But it gets a bit difficult to know exactly how to react when the leakers are keen to tell the world that they are the ones who spilt the beans.

There's none of 'deep throat' about these two - all their colleagues and political opponents know who they are and while I'm not naming them in print their identity is about as secret as Jordan's boob job.

I have to say I quite like it that way. If you have a secret squirrel feeding you information there is always the danger that when you ask someone for a reaction you'll release just enough information to identify your source.

That always makes you nervous about what you say and write - and at least I don't have to worry about those nerves!

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